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Bhindi Do Pyaza – Spicy Okra & Onion Curry

I have made a new resolve in hopes of loosing some weight. I’ve cut down on rice and trying to eat chapatti/roti as much as possible. I do love soft phulkas very much, so it is not at all difficult for me. I happen to love dry curries with roti and I think you will see a lot of curry recipes in the next few days. Today’s curry is very special (not the healthiest though!). I LOVE okra and especially this curry! All of you who think okra is a stupid slimy vegetable, you should try and cook it the Indian way and you will start loving it. Okra is knows as lady’s finger in India (a British influence). I guess its because of its shape, long and slender, as beautiful as a lady’s finger!! This curry is a wonderful combination of flavors. Okra is called Bhindi in Hindi and the pyaza stands for onions, onions are called as pyaz in Hindi. This is a subtle, dry okra curry that is cooked with lots of onions. This curry is extremely tasty and very addictive! You won’t stop eating it! Usually in Indian restaurants, okra is deep fried before being mixed with the onions. We shall follow a healthier option and bake it instead. Okra will be crispy and crunchy, without all the fat!

Before getting to the recipe, here are some tips for cooking okra, without the slime! The sliminess is one reason that a lot of people dislike this veggie. Okra is a powerhouse of so many nutrients, it is a very good source of vitamin C, A and B6. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber and is a low calorie food. Try including okra at least once a week in your diet. In India mothers feed the children okra saying, if you eat okra, you will be excellent in mathematics (meaning it is so good for your brain). Well, I guess that’s not totally true. I LOVE okra. Always ate too much of it. I still suck at mathematics 😛 Anyways, if you enjoy the taste, you don’t really need a reason to eat this wonderful vegetable. Okra is used widely in India and there are so many varieties of curries that can be prepared with it, dry curries, gravies and kadhi!! Will share the recipes in my future posts. I find the American okra to be very woody and stringy. Buy fresh okra when ever you can or you can easily find frozen okra in the Indian grocery stores, they are very tender, just like the ones we get in India.

  • First, wash the okra and dry it with a kitchen towel before cutting/slicing. If the okra is wet while cutting, you will have too much slime.
  • Use a little more oil than you would use for most other vegetables. Once you drop in the cut okra, toss only once to coat with oil. Do not stir very often. Stirring causes more slime. Toss gently from time to time. I actually like to wash the spoon that I use to stir the okra from time to time while making the curry, so that the slime from previous stirring does not get back into the curry!!!
  • Add the salt and the other masala after the okra is almost cooked and then saute for a while longer.
  • Using a non-stick vessel definitely helps.
  • Don’t cover okra while cooking.
  • Adding some lemon juice will also prevent slime.
  • Deep frying or baking the okra in the oven are also some alternatives. Baking is of course much more healthier. People who cannot bake, cook the okra separately in a pan and then add it to the curry/gravy. This will prevent your gravy from becoming too thick or sticky.
  • If you are using frozen okra, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator or in the microwave. Then remove the excess moisture using a kitchen towel and then follow the recipe. Also, frozen okra tends to cook faster, so keep checking it before the time mentioned in the recipe.

I hope these tips help you overcome the fear/dislike of okra!! Now lets get to the recipe.

Ingredients:
Serves 2-4

For the okra:

Okra (cut into 1 inch pieces) – 1 pound (250 gms)
Oil – 1 Tbsp
Salt & Pepper – to taste (just a little bit, to season the okra)

For the curry:

Onions (diced) – 1 large
Tomatoes (diced) – 2 small
Green chillies/Serrano chillies (sliced) – 3-4 no.
Ginger (minced) – 1 tsp
Garlic (minced) – 1 Tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 Tbsp (preferably freshly ground)
Garam Masala – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1-2 tsp
Amchur (dry mango powder) – 2 tsp
Lemon juice – 2 tsp (optional, use if you haven’t used amchur)
Oil – 1 1/2 Tbsp
Coriander/Cilantro leaves (chopped) – 2-3 Tbsp
Kasuri Methi (crushed) – 1 tsp (optional)

Method:

Tip: If you are using frozen okra, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator or in the microwave. Then remove the excess moisture using a kitchen towel and then follow the recipe. Also, frozen okra tends to cook faster, so keep checking it before the time mentioned in the recipe.

If using an oven to cook the okra:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  •  2 Tbsp of oil with the salt and toss the okra pieces in the oil. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove and keep aside.

If you are not using an oven:

  • Heat the oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat and add in the okra. Toss gently and then let it be. Just let it be, do not be tempted to stir too much. Stir once in a while to turn over the cooked okra. Then season with some salt and toss every 2 minutes until the okra is cooked and is almost crispy, as if deep fried. Remove from heat and keep aside.

For the curry:

  • Heat the oil in a pan and add in the cumin seeds. Saute for 30 seconds and add in the turmeric powder, chopped ginger, garlic and slit green chillies. Cook for another 30 seconds, and add in the diced onions and tomatoes, chilli powder,  coriander powder and salt and cook on high heat for 5-7 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft.
  • Then add in the cooked okra and stir gently to mix everything together. Sprinkle the amchur, crushed kasuri methi and garam masala on top and cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

Finish with chopped cilantro/coriander leaves. Serve hot with roti, puri, paratha or rice.

And here’s a bite for you!

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